Good Bar Codes Begin With Good Labels

By John Burke-

What makes a good label?  A good label is the one that is right for its intended use, or application.  While there are many aspects to consider, there are three basic considerations in selecting the right label.  First, consider how the label will be used and what conditions it will be exposed to.  Knowing how the label will be used begins forming the basis for selecting the label material, or substrate.  For example, consider moisture, extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, or other harsh conditions.   The more demanding these requirements, the more durable label material is needed.  Generally speaking, general purpose paper labels are suitable for indoor applications such as inventory control labeling.  However, applications such as product identification labeling on industrial equipment exposed to chemicals and oils require more durable synthetic label materials.

Second, to what type of surface will the label be adhered?  Understanding the surface characteristics help determine the most suitable adhesive.  General purpose permanent adhesives are often used on smooth, flat surfaces.  However, industrial powder coating, specialty paints and rough textured surfaces can be a real challenge for adhesives.  Labels with high performance aggressive adhesives are often required to obtain the most effective bond between label and surface.  After all, a label that looks great but doesn’t stick is not a good label for the job.

Third, consider how the bar code (and other text, graphics and images) will be printed on the label.  It is important to match the correct label topcoat, or ink receptive treatment on the face of the label, to the printing method.  Several common print technologies are popular today, including thermal transfer, laser, and ink jet.  Selecting the label with the proper coating will be critical to ensuring the best printing, and thus best bar code read results.  Further, among the print technologies, there are many different ribbons, toners, and inks available.  Therefore, careful selection is necessary to matching the ribbon, toner, or ink to the label.

 A good label is one that is made of a material suitable for the demands of the application, uses an adhesive appropriate to bond to the surface, and offers the correct topcoat to ensure high quality printing of bar codes, text, and other images.  Since 1980, Winco ID has been helping customers develop the best solutions to the most challenging labeling applications.

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